Professor Robert Matthews

Phone number: 0790 651 9126
Email: rajm@physics.org

Robert Matthews


After reading physics at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford I began a dual career in science writing and academic research. I joined The Times as a specialist correspondent in 1987, followed by The Sunday Telegraph (1990 -  2005). At the same time, I began research into areas I was writing about, such as chaos theory, genetic algorithms and neural networks, with my work on the latter leading to a Visiting Fellowship at Aston University in 1992. I have continued my association with the University ever since.

I now work as a consultant in science and media, working with clients in the public and private sectors in the UK and abroad, from the Royal Statistical Society and National Institute of Health Research to BBC Focus magazine and TV production companies.

I’m especially interested in public engagement in science and mathematics. I’ve given many popular level talks in this area, and have set up nationwide experiments for schools, using scientific methods to investigate everyday issues such as urban myths. 

  • BA in physics, University of Oxford, 1981 
  • Chartered Physicist, Institute of Physics, 1996
  • Visiting Professor (2015 – date) 
  • Visiting Reader    (2002 – 2015) 
  • Visiting Fellow     (1992 – 2002)
  • Bayesian inference as a means of assessing real “significance” of evidence in medicine, nutrition and general science. 
  • Application of probability theory to “everyday” issues like understanding coincidences and making optimal bets. 
  • Developing new evidence-based approaches to mathematics and science education. 
  • Public engagement with maths and science through mass experiments involving schools and colleges
  • Fellowship, Royal Astronomical Society 
  • Fellowship, Royal Statistical Society 
  • Membership, Institute of Physics
  •  Medical statistics 

Why should clinicians care about Bayesian methods? J Stat Plan Inf 94(1) 43-58 2001

What are the implications of optimism bias in clinical research ? (with Chalmers, I) The Lancet 367 (9509) 449-450 2006

Medical progress depends on animal models – doesn’t it ? J Roy Soc Med 101 (2) 95-98 (2008)

  • Inference & decision theory 

Inference with legal evidence: common sense is necessary but not sufficient Med Sci Law 44(3) 189-192 (2004)

Methods for assessing the credibility of clinical trial outcomes Drug Inf J 35(4) 1468-1478 (2001)

Decision-theoretic limits on earthquake prediction Geophys J Intl 131 (3) 526-529 (1997)

Base-rate errors and rain forecasts Nature 382 (6594) 766 (1996)

  • Computation 

Neural computation in stylometry I: An application to the works of Shakespeare and Fletcher (with T V N Merriam) Lit & Ling Comp 8 (4) 203-209 (1993)

Neural computation in stylometry II: An application to the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe (with T V N Merriam) Lit & Ling Comp 9 (1) 1 -6 (1994)

Shakespeare v Fletcher: A stylometric analysis by radial basis functions (with Lowe, D.) Comp & Hum 29 (6) 449-461 (1995)

On the derivation of a chaotic encryption algorithm Cryptologia 13 (1) 29-42 (1989)

The use of genetic algorithms in cryptanalysis Cryptologia 17 (2) 187-201 (1993)

  • Astronomy/astrophysics 

The darkening of Iapetus and the origin of Hyperion Qtr J Roy Astr Soc 33 253

Is Proxima really in orbit around aCen A/B ? (with Gilmore, G), MN Roy Astr Soc 261(1) L5-L7 (1993)

The close approach of stars in the Solar Neighbourhood Qtr J Roy Astr Soc 35, 1 (1994)

  • Pedagogic 

String theory in science lessons: the investigation of a notoriously knotty problem Sch Sci Rev 96(356) 69-74 (2015)

Why do people believe weird things? Significance 2(4) 182-184 (2005)

Storks deliver babies (p = 0.008) Teaching Statistics 22 (2) 36-38 (2000)

Tumbling Toast, Murphy’s Law and the fundamental constants Euro J Phys 16(4) 172 (1995)